Can A National Marketing Campaign Work?

Life. Plant Life.

What do we stand for as an industry? Do we have a common marketing message or goal? If we don’t, is there still a way to market our industry in a big way to new generations of gardeners?

Joining together for a national promotion order is a technique that has worked for other industries. The idea has popped up several times over the years in our industry, but it has never gained enough traction to become a reality, because a promotion campaign means different things to different people.

Igniting A Conversation

Recently, former OFA president Danny Takao reinvigorated the conversation with an idea for a marketing order with an association-based collection mechanism.

As he wrote in an essay for GreenhouseGrower.com, “What if a non-profit organization could be the funding/collecting mechanism via assessed yearly dues? Instead of focusing on one group, we assess the complete supply chain based on annual sales. Let’s say we collect $250 to $1,000. If we spread that over everyone in the industry, no one group or company would bear the cost of this campaign. That should raise a minimum of $1 million, plus enough to get going with our national campaign.”

In response, OFA’s Michael Geary says OFA’s elected leaders and staff will discuss how the organization can take an active role in an effort like this one, suggesting the possibility of an all-industry meeting to generate ideas and discuss the costs of a collaborative campaign or marketing effort.

Takao says a program like this only works if everyone in the supply chain contributes, and points out that an assessment of $250 or $1,000 isn’t that high a cost to invest in the industry’s future. While Takao says he’s heard many in the industry say they can’t afford to contribute to a national campaign, he asks if they can afford not to.

“That really tells me all they are thinking about is themselves,” Takao says. “They want someone else to fund this. The more people who support this, the smaller the cost is for each company.”

Mandatory assessments would have to be handled through the USDA-managed Promotion Order program, according to Stan Pohmer, and would only assess growers, not manufacturers, distributors or retailers. Because past efforts toward a mandatory program have failed, some people are against trying this approach again.

“If you try to make it a mandatory assessment, it’s as good as dead,” says Plant Delights Nursery’s Tony Avent. “If you don’t believe me, ask the folks in the American Nursery & Landscape Association (ANLA) who tried this same thing over a decade ago. They thought the required vote was a done deal until we informed everyone that the federal government would put a lien on your business if you didn’t pay.”

Still, a voluntary contribution plan can work, Pohmer says. He points out that the America In Bloom beautification program is built on volunteer contributions, and that the Society of American Florists (SAF) earmarks a percentage of collected national dues to marketing initiatives it manages.

Alternative Options

Until a mandatory promotion order is agreed upon, there are other programs and organizations that impact industry sales like a national promotion would, Geary points out, including the OFA-managed America In Bloom program. Other organizations also impact industry sales, Geary says, listing ANLA, National Garden Bureau, American Horticultural Society, National Garden Clubs, Society of American Florists, PLANET, Arbor Day Foundation, Alliance for Community Trees and Keep America Beautiful as examples.

Adds Texas A&M’s Charlie Hall: “We have an existing national marketing campaign. It’s called America in Bloom and it fosters the increased usage of flowers, shrubs and trees in communities all across America.”

Even without a mandatory national promotion order, some collaboration can benefit the entire industry. Hall says that if the entire industry uses the same messaging in marketing, we can accomplish the same effect that a promotion order does.

What Should The Message Be?

If you ask Hall, he says the message our industry shares should be that we “enhance the quality of people’s lives by providing many economic, environmental and health/well-being benefits – things that we have historically not emphasized.”

Catering to the consumer’s desire for ease of use is another message many in the industry have tested, but gardening expert C.L. Fornari says it might be the wrong tactic.

“With all that talk about low-maintenance gardening and foolproof containers, we just set people up for disappointment and frustration,” she says. “They discovered that composting is just a tad complicated and that a combination planter takes a bit more tending than we’d led them to believe.”

Fornari says she has a few marketing messages she’d like to see spread through the consumer world: “You Can Grow That” and “Passionate About Plants.”

“The message should range from serious (Healthy food? You can grow that!) to the fun or surprising (Sex? You can grow that!), she says. “We want it to be the starting point in plant descriptions and the punchline for advertisements, videos and blogs. I want to see David Letterman and Jay Leno make fun of it.” She agrees that what we need is an industry-wide campaign that touches every demographic, from kids to Baby Boomers.

Sid Raisch says that while the “Fall Is For Planting” marketing message hasn’t had a significant effect in the 25 years since it was first used to encourage a new season for gardening, other messages have worked.

“I know some garden centers that have learned to create value with better messaging,” Raisch says. “We need to stop eroding value, and inspire and create a compelling want for our product with the budget that already lies at the control of the garden center.”

He adds that the message should inform and inspire about the benefits of our products instead of devaluing our products through discount messages.

Avent suggests a message similar to the Good Housekeeping seal of approval and related website that promotes those organizations who contributed, so they could see their dollars in action.

“We should look at any marketing program like a cell phone contract,” he says. “Let’s make what the customer gets so good that they wouldn’t want to leave.”

Others say we still have a long way to go before we understand the needs and wants of today’s consumers.

“We need to know more about the customers, the market place and how to provide products that are profitable for our industry and satisfying for the customer,” says Joe Cialone, owner of Tropical Computers and co-founder of the National Foliage Foundation. “I hope Danny’s ideas get the ball rolling again and that our industry responds. I don’t believe that voluntary will do it, but at this point almost anything would be better than what is being done now.”

Leave a Reply

One comment on “Can A National Marketing Campaign Work?

  1. First Fruits Farms on Kickstarter. Please check out our open source farming. I beleive this would interest your readers. Hit the link below or just search for "First Fruits" at kickstarter.com. http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1651556528/robotic-first-fruits-farm-sustainable-food-energy?ref=live We are automating the labor task for greenhouse vegetable production as well as developing low labor renewables energy systems to heat, cool and power greenhouses. Much of this technology could also be used to operate ornamental greenhouses. Open source means the technology is available to any grower who will give their "First Fruits", 10% of production, to the poor.

More From Grow Initiative...
PP&L CAST 2015 intros

April 22, 2015

6 Breeding Companies Serve Up New Varieties At Pacific Plug & Liner

Pacific Plug & Liner’s theme this year, Labyrinth, a conservatory of the world’s most captivating plants, was perfectly topped off (pun intended) with fascinators for the women and newsboy caps for the men. The PP&L team dressed their part to act out the gothic “conservatory of the world’s most captivating plants.” Truly, the displays looked like they practically popped out of a catalog, and the costumes were a nice touch. Retailers take heed, the fully merchandised displays at Pacific Plug & Liner are worthy of emulating. We’ll let the pictures tell the story of all the fabulous variety introductions presented at  Pacific Plug & Liner’s 2015 California Spring Trials, where Cultivaris, Cohen Nurseries, Histil Nurseries, Jaldety Nurseries, Southern Living/Sunset Collection and Pacific Plug & Liner all highlighted their 2016 introductions.  

Read More
Speedling 2015 CAST intros

April 22, 2015

Speedling Inc. Presents New Varieties From ABZ Seeds, Hem Genetics, Thompson & Morgan, Vista Farms & PSI

You name it, we saw it at Speedling's California Spring Trials location in San Juan Bautista, where five companies showed off their new introductions for 2016.

Read More
PittMoss on Shark Tank

April 22, 2015

PittMoss Wins On Shark Tank

Mont Handley, president and CEO of PittMoss, appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank on April 17 to try to get the “sharks” to invest in his peat moss alternative. Three investors from the TV show contributed $600,000 to PittMoss for a 35 percent stake in the company. Check out this clip from ABC’s website in which Mark Cuban, Kevin O’Leary and Robert Herjavec discuss getting on board with the product. PittMoss is an alternative to sphagnum peat moss, made up of a mix of proprietary additives and recycled paper rescued from landfill space. Handley founded the Pittsburgh-based company in 1994. What started as a small experiment grew into a full-fledged business with the help of funding provided by an EPA SBIR grant and Pittsburgh’s Idea Foundry. Today, PittMoss is available to commercial greenhouses and nurseries from Michigan to Maine to North Carolina, with plans to grow. To learn more, visit PittMoss’ website, or check it […]

Read More
Latest Stories
CrownBees_Blue-Orchard-Bee-Female_Artz

April 21, 2015

There’s Still Time Left In Crown Bees’ Camp…

There is a little more than a week left in Crown Bees’ Indiegogo fund-raising venture designed to give garden center retailers a chance to help increase awareness of native bees, and to increase the number of bees to pollinate local food. The company is raising $100,000 to redesign “Bee with Me,” a social network that connects, maps and empowers bee boosters across the U.S. Garden centers that take part in the campaign can: Be listed as a local resource for products and supplies in the online network Get access to and activate a new group of customers Be viewed as a leader in the community Be seen as a source of local expertise. Within your own store and brand, there are several ways you can also help to raise awareness about native bees, such as educating customers about the gentle nature of solitary bees. Visit CrownBees.com for some easy facts to pass […]

Read More
Todd Woodfield

April 8, 2015

Sustainable Horticulture Pays Off

Practicing holistic horticulture has saved money and improved plant quality for Abby Farms. Its manager shares where the operation has seen differences from conventional production.

Read More

April 1, 2015

Philadelphia Flower Show Draws More Than 250,000 Attend…

With more than 250,000 consumers attending the prestigious Philadelphia Flower Show in March each year, it's a great opportunity to get flowers and gardening products into the public eye. This year's show displays took on family favorites at the movies, with a focus on Disney and Pixar films. Check out some of the highlights in our slideshow.

Read More

April 1, 2015

Peace Tree Farms Grows Its Customer Base

Over the past five years, Peace Tree Farms in Kintnersville, Pa., has concentrated on growing its business by providing plant material for the displays at the illustrious Philadelphia Flower Show. We caught up with Peace Tree Farms’ Lloyd Traven to ask about how the Flower Show figures into his business plan.

Read More
Bloomtown_Screen Shot 2015-03-10

March 24, 2015

Bloomtown Exposes Consumers To The World Of Horticultur…

A new web series called Bloomtown is all about the mud, sweat and tears of horticulture. Filmed in St. Louis, Mo., it chronicles the world of horticulture using local flower growers, greenhouses, wholesalers, florists, consumers, retail shops and arborists, with the goal of opening consumers’ eyes to the world of horticulture around them.

Read More
SAF CAD

March 18, 2015

Growers Ask For Immigration And Healthcare Reform Durin…

Nearly 90 growers, retailers, suppliers and wholesales attended the Society of American Florists' (SAF) 2015 Congressional Action Days March 9-10. The delegation, representing 18 states, arrived on Capitol Hill at a time when two major industry issues - immigration and healthcare reform - are especially prominent in national headlines.

Read More
Nexus Corporation's Cheryl Longtin Encourages Women To Seek Volunteer Leadership Opportunities

March 4, 2015

Nexus Corporation’s Cheryl Longtin Encourages Wom…

When Cheryl Longtin came to the horticulture business in 1994, she applied her experience in the automotive industry to promote the adoption of more technology in greenhouse production. Longtin says horticulture, with its rich family tradition, has long promoted women in the industry compared to other industries, but women in horticulture must continue to seek out opportunities to provide volunteer leadership in organizations that shape the future of the business.

Read More
Smart Herb Garden

March 2, 2015

Smartpot Uses Sensors And Cartridges To Ensure Success …

Click & Grow helps make it simple for consumers to grow their own herbs and spices at home, even if they have little experience with plants.

Read More

March 2, 2015

Student Flash Mob At TPIE Has Roots In Floriculture

The local FFA students who entertained TPIE attendees in 2014 and 2015 received industry donations of plants and a greenhouse structure to help expand their horticultural program.

Read More

February 12, 2015

GROW Perspective: What Is It You Do Again?

The industry is very good at talking about what we do and how we do it, but has almost completely lost touch with talking about why this work is important. As an industry, we need to promote our professions as vital to healthier living.

Read More
bee photo

February 11, 2015

26 Ways Growers Improve The Green Industry

In Greenhouse Grower’s annual State Of The Industry Survey, we asked how your operation is living the GROW Initiative’s five pillars: How are you driving consumer success, cultivating new customers, demanding quality, investing in the industry and sharpening business management? Through your candid responses, we learned about some of the ideas you’ve implemented and steps you’re taking for 2015. Here are just a few.

Read More
Noble Foundation

February 3, 2015

Lloyd Noble Scholars Program Application Period Now Ope…

The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation is offering college students an opportunity to work side-by-side with the Noble Foundation’s renowned agricultural consultants and researchers through the Lloyd Noble Scholars in Agriculture program, a summer internship that provides students the opportunity to enhance their in-class education with real-world application and experiences.

Read More

January 7, 2015

GROW Summit 2014 Homes In On The Issues That Keep You U…

During Greenhouse Grower’s third annual GROW Summit in December a number of ideas, questions and calls-to-action transpired. Here are a few of the highlights.

Read More
GROW Logo

January 6, 2015

Growers Resolve To Educate Public About Their Operation…

See what growers plan to work on for their 2015 business resolutions.

Read More

December 22, 2014

National Garden Bureau Launches Therapeutic Garden Prog…

National Garden Bureau has chosen the Growing Solutions Farm in Chicago as the first beneficiary of its annual fundraising effort "Growing For Futures."

Read More

December 19, 2014

Hydroponic Food Production Course Serves Up Life Lesson…

Students in the new HORT 331X Hydroponic Food Crop Production course at Iowa State University are producing more food than they can eat, so they began donating the vegetables they produce to a local food pantry and free meal program.

Read More
GROW Logo

December 8, 2014

“The Cheapest Generation” Will Be Tomorrow&…

Members of the Millennial generation aren’t buying cars and houses the way their parents did, and according to a recent article from The Atlantic titled “The Cheapest Generation,” it might be more than an effect of a bad economy. So what does this mean for horticulture? Industry members weigh in.

Read More
Katie Nickolaus

November 25, 2014

Proven Winners Names 2014 Scholarship Winners

Looking to promote industry leaders of the future, Proven Winners has established a $15,000 scholarship program that awards students in three distinct areas - breeding, marketing and growing.

Read More